Public Interraciality: Managing Visibility

Amy C. Steinbugler

in Beyond Loving

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199743551
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199979370 | DOI:
Public Interraciality: Managing Visibility

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This chapter analyzes another form of racework that interracial partners use in public spaces—visibility management. By managing their visibility, interracial couples anticipate and protect themselves against racial prejudice and homophobia. In discussing these practices, this chapter draws on Erving Goffman’s notions of stigma and stigma management. It first examines the public experiences of interracial partners specifically in light of their sexuality, a perspective absent in past research. Heterosexual couples report feeling their racial difference as particularly salient in social spaces, though they intermittently experience moments when their racial difference makes them less, not more, visible. When the couple includes a Black man and a White woman, partners often experience hypervisibility. For same-sex partners, especially lesbians, racial difference increases the experience of invisibility. There is also evidence in these narratives that racial difference may sharpen the homophobia directed at couples when they are recognized as intimate partners. The second half of the chapter examines the racework that interracial partners use to manage visibility and discusses why same-sex interracial partners engage in these social practices more often than heterosexual partners.

Keywords: racework; visibility management; invisibility; visibility; hypervisibility; stigma; stigma management; Erving Goffman; racial prejudice; homophobia

Chapter.  12626 words. 

Subjects: Race and Ethnicity

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